Coffey Architects: Apartment Block shows impeccable craftsmanship

Architecture / 19 Mar 2020

Apartment Block by Coffey Architects has won the Materiality and Craftsmanship Prize in the NLA’s Don’t Move, Improve! 2020 awards. The project is an impeccably hand-crafted, two-storey apartment, designed as a solid piece of joinery ‘inserted’ into an existing building. The home’s living space has been carved out of over 30,000 individual oak cross-section blocks.

Before (left) & After (right)

To create ‘Apartment Block’, Coffey Architects began by stripping away all non-original features, including everything inserted in a 2000 conversion from school to office/residential use. The envelope has been left open and bare to retain the drama and history of the space. They have further maximised the sense of openness, light and spatial quality by cleverly reconfiguring the existing mezzanine over the huge double-height living room. This main space celebrates the original Victorian features, including windows, glazing and cornicing.

Behind the living area sits a contemporary kitchen and a flexible dining room, which can be converted into a second bedroom when necessary. There are sliding pocket doors to this space, letting light soak deep into the plan and exaggerating the size of the space at the ground floor. A staircase, which has been moved to the side of the plan for efficiency, leads up to a study area that looks back over the double-height space and is screened off from the master bedroom behind beautifully crafted, Japanese-inspired sliding screens.

Coffey Architects have revealed the original glazed green bricks to line the perimeter of the ground floor. The three-metre tall original sash timber windows now are featured in the main living space, with ornately crafted opening shutters lined with translucent linen to allow light in whilst still maintaining privacy. The shutters filter sun from the south-facing windows and cast an orchestra of shadows on the walls of the double height living space, ever-changing and moving throughout the day.

Apartment Block impressed the judges with its thoughtful detailing and hand-crafted features. The design shows how a couple can adapt their compact living space to suit their changing lifestyle, while also being beautifully made and carefully considerate to the building’s history.

About DMI

Don’t Move, Improve! is a competition hosted by New London Architecture (NLA) – an independent forum for discussion, debate and information about architecture and construction in the capital – celebrating London’s best and most innovative home extensions and improvements.

Photography: Tim Soar

Image courtesy of NLA

Coffey Architects

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